Reports: Obama administration developing drone assassination rulebook
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End the Lie
November 26th, 2012
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According to recently published reports, the Obama administration is just now developing a formal set of standards and procedures forÂ carrying out assassinations via unmanned aerial vehiclesÂ (UAVs), better known as drones.
Note:Â thereÂ are increasingly worrisome developments in the realm of fully automated weapons systems, also known as âkiller robots,âÂ which are now being identified and criticized. These issues add an entirely new dimension to concerns surrounding unmanned warfare.
This is especially surprising given thatÂ the United Statesâ drone assassination program has been in operation for quite a while nowÂ and has already led toÂ at least one lawsuit against the U.S. military and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
It is also interesting that U.S. Attorney General Eric HolderÂ claimed earlier this year that their secret reviews of evidence count as due process, giving the impression that they had some kind of guidelines in place already. This impression was also given over a year ago withÂ the realization of the secret death panels run by the National Security Council(NSC).
Yet apparently there have not been any formal guidelines in place this entire time, according to a report fromÂ The New York Times.
This would mean that Americans, includingÂ a 16-year-old boy, have been killed along withÂ unknown numbers of civiliansÂ in countries like Yemen (whereÂ at least 29 people were killed in just 8 days earlier this year) and Pakistan (which has seenÂ over 2,000 deathsÂ since Obama took office) without any actual rules governing such actions.
To make matters even more insane, theÂ TimesÂ reports, âObama and his advisers are still debating whether remote-control killing should be a measure of last resort against imminent threats to the United States, or a more flexible tool, available to help allied governments attack their enemies or to prevent militants from controlling territory.â
One might point out thatÂ with signature strikes, it is already being used as âa more flexible tool.â
Itâs truly hard to tell what is really going on with the drone program sinceÂ Obama lies when discussing it with the mediaÂ and simply refuses to address the issue in a court of law.
According to Scott Shane, writing forÂ The New York Times, âThe attempt to write a formal rule book for targeted killing began last summer after news reports on the drone program, started under President George W. Bush and expanded by Mr. Obama, revealed some details of the presidentâs role in the shifting procedures for compiling âkill listsâ and approving strikes.â
However, itâs worth pointing out that theÂ TimesÂ is essentially citing their own work as the impetus for the creation of this rulebook. Personally, I find such claims suspicious sinceÂ news outlets seem to love giving themselves credit where none is due.
A statement from an anonymous Obama administration official seems to indicate that the motives were not at all related to the earlier report.
âThere was concern that the levers might no longer be in our hands,â said the unnamed official cited by theÂ Times.
The official added that Obama did not want to leave open the possibility of handing over an âamorphousâ program to Romney.
Obama himself actually addressed the lack of a legal framework for the drone program in an interview on October 18Â with Jon Stewart on âThe Daily Show.â
âOne of the things weâve got to do is put a legal architecture in place, and we need Congressional help in order to do that, to make sure that not only am I reined in but any presidentâs reined in terms of some of the decisions that weâre making,â Obama said.
Obama also addressed the issue when speaking to Mark Bowden for the book âThe Finish: The Killing of Osama Bin Laden.â Obama told Bowden that âcreating a legal structure, processes, with oversight checks on how we use unmanned weapons, is going to be a challenge for me and my successors for some time to come.â
One could infer from that statement that there is indeed no legal structure, processes or oversight checks on how drones are currently used.
âThereâs a remoteness to it that makes it tempting to think that somehow we can, without any mess on our hands, solve vexing security problems,â Obama added.
The BritishÂ GuardianÂ cites Jameel Jaffer, director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Center for Democracy, a critic of the assassination program as well as theÂ TimesÂ article itself which, according to Jaffer, relied on âself-serving sources.â
âTo say they are rewriting the rulebook implies that there is already a rulebook,â Jaffer said. âBut what they are already doing is rejecting a rulebook â of international law â that has been in place since [the second world war].â
âIt is frustrating how we are reliant on self-serving leaks,â continued Jaffer. âWe are left with interpreting shadows cast on the wall. The terms that are being used by these officials are undefined, malleable and without definition. It is impossible to know whether they are talking about something lawful or unlawful.â
âWe are litigating for the release of legal memos,â said Jaffer, referring to the above-linked lawsuit. âWe donât think the public should have to reply [sic] on self-serving leaking by unnamed administrative officials.â
Jaffer also criticized the supposed debate within the government reported by theÂ Times.
âThe suggestion is that there is a significant debate going on within the administration about the scope of the governmentâs authority to carry out targeted killings,â said Jaffer. âI would question the significance of the debate. If imminent is defined as broadly as some say it is within the administration then the gap between the sides is narrow.â
âIt matters how you define âimminent.â The Bush administration was able to say it didnât condone torture because of the definition of torture,â Jaffer continued. âYou might think that if someone says, âI believe we should only use targeted killings only when thereâs an imminent threat,â you might think that sounds OK. But without terms like âimminentâ being defined it is impossible to evaluate the arguments.â
Indeed, it is nearly impossible to actually evaluate any of the arguments simply because the Obama administration refuses to actually outline the arguments in any unambiguous fashion, especially in a court of law.
Did I forget anything or miss any errors? Would you like to make me aware of a story or subject to cover? Or perhaps you want to bring your writing to a wider audience? Feel free to contact me atÂ admin@EndtheLie.comÂ with your concerns, tips, questions, original writings, insults or just about anything that may strike your fancy.
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